Grown-ish Is the Most Stylish Show on TV: How Michelle Cole Made It Happen

Exclusive: Grown-ish costume designer Michelle Cole spills secrets behind TV's best-dressed show

By Tierney Bricker Feb 07, 2018 7:38 PMTags
Watch: "Black-ish" Star Yara Shahidi Is "So Ready" for College

Watch out, world, she's grown now.

For years, TV viewers knew and loved Zoey Johnson (Yara Shadidi) as the outspoken and sassy teen daughter of Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) on ABC's Black-ish. But now Zoey is coming of age on Grown-ish, her college-set spinoff on Freeform. Viewers seem more than ready to watch Zoey live the best four years of her life, as the comedy has quickly become a hit, earning a second season pick-up after becoming the network's highest-rated comedy debut in six years. 

Grown-ish's immediate success has been a pleasant surprise for costume designer Michelle Cole, who also works on Black-ish and got her start on In Living Color in the early '90s, earning four Emmy nominations for her work over the years.

"When you're creating something you don't know how it's going to turn out. So we did it for ourselves. We didn't think it was going to be so big the way that it happened," Cole told E! News of the overwhelmingly positive response Grown-ish, which was created by Kenya Barris, has received since its January debut. "It's been great to see the outpour of love."

Grown-ish: Behind the Seams of TV's Most Stylish New Show

And a major part of the outpouring of love has been for the show's style. These kids aren't wearing sweats or pajamas to lectures, they are taking street style trends to the dorm halls, led by Zoey Johnson (with Shahidi becoming a new fashion darling in her own right), TV's best-dressed teenager. 

The Zoey we see on Grown-ish has come a long way since we met her as a too-cool-but-still-loved-school 14-year-old when Black-ish debuted in 2014. When it came to graduating Zoey to her own show, Cole had the fun challenge of switching up the style of a character she had already spent four years styling, bringing her from a young teen hanging out in her family's kitchen to a young woman living on her own for the first time. 

"I always call them the best-dressed family ever in their house! This is a beautiful looking family in their home always. I've never seen anybody wear Gucci in their house!" Cole said of the Johnson family's chic and high-end at-home style on Black-ish. "To me, Black-ish is a fantasy. So coming from those two parents, Zoey's not far from that. When she goes to college, you see her separating herself…you start to see her grow because she's been underneath her parents' roof her whole life. We start to see her walk her own path and discover her own clothes."


That new path meant going "from skirts and blouses and little prissy cute outfits to something now like headbands and things that she never really did on Black-ish," Cole said. "She always had beautiful clothes, we had a great time dressing her. But we start to see her really being Zoey now." 

To find Zoey's ever-changing style, Cole and her team mix a lot of high and low-end items, combing through specialty stores and vintage boutiques all over Los Angeles, as well as stores such as Zara and Forever 21, to create the look. "We're shopping all over, so the man power to do all of this shopping is a lot of work," Cole admitted. 

But it's all worth it, as Zoey has already proven to be a TV style icon in the making.

"She likes to go the distance," Cole said of the character. "I think she wakes up going, 'Oh, I feel like this today. Oh, I feel like wearing a robe with my Gucci slides with the fur.' And the next day might be something from Forever 21 with the Zara scarf. I don't think that we're going to bombard you guys with all these names. We're trying to bombard you with the look."

For more scoop on Grown-ish's fashion, like breakdowns of each character's own style, check out our gallery for behind-the-seams details from Cole. 

Grown-ish: Behind the Seams of TV's Most Stylish New Show

Grown-ish airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Freeform.